Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thanks for the Meme-ories

Firstly, I'd like to thank both Jude and Julia for nominating me for a Thinking Blog Award. It's surprising how a little thought can mean so much. I toil away writing blog posts to share some of the wonderful art that I'm privileged to experience in the hope that others might benefit from my work.

Now that it's my turn to nominate someone, I nominate Jude of Spirit Cloth (even though she has nominated me). I'm inspired by her constant invention within her art and craft. Her gifted imagination feels like a kindred spirit with dreams blowing from an angle close but yet curiously different from my own. Her work is a pleasure to behold everyday, her quilts are exquisite tapestries of the imagination. Her thought is in her work and her dedication to her online documentation allows a unique insight into the craft-artistic process that anyone familiar with her blog will understand and admire. So Jude this is for you.

Secondly, I've been tagged by the lovely Sandra aka Friederike for a 7 random facts/habits about yourself meme.

Seven Things.....

1. I always, I mean *always*, have Vegemite on toast and coffee for breakfast.

2. My beany baby Grover is considered a genuine member of our household.

3. Sometimes I forget to brush my hair, and I end up going to the shops with Einstein hair (only a bit more blue;)

4. I spend too much time on the computer, but it never seems to be enough either.

5. I love chocolate but it doesn't love me, so I seem to always have pimples...I hate that but I don't hate chocolate.

6. I always have a book and a hanky and a pen on me. (yep, I'm a nerd, but if you've been reading this blog you might remember "A Week of Geek" look under "Fun Stuff" in my sidebar for more).

7. I don't let my friends see the funny clothes I wear at home, they are not fit for public viewing. I call them my Home Clothes.

Now I have to tag seven I tag Plastic Girl, Shannon, Jude, Abby Jane, Mel Robson, Lotusgreen, and Anna Daven I hope they forgive me :P

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why Contemporary Folk Art? - an artist statement

After Anna Daven's questions in my last post Australian Spirit regarding Contemporary Folk Art. I thought I would post my response here as well - modified and expanded.

Anna asks, "Does contemporary folk art have to reference the past?"

I personally have defined Contemporary Folk Art as the beautiful expression of a people or nation. I did this because I wanted to create an art that was not responsible to the domain of International Contemporary post-Post Modern Conceptual Art which to me often seems like a space station that is gradually drifting further out of Earth's orbit.

Folk art itself is, I believe, in its academic sense an art primarily by people without a formal training in the Fine Arts and Art Theory. Folk Art by nature and from an art historical or museum view point is about the character of a nation - an art grown from the soil, or broad culture of a country. It becomes a vessel of the nation's soul because it is relatively unrestrained by the formal aesthetics of western art culture. I could not, therefore, call myself a Folk artist because I'm not insensible to the art historical reading of art and understand my stance or artistic desires as being generated with the assistance of formal academic training in Art History and Art Theory.

I can not presume to remove my knowledge and the influence training has on my work, however I can consciously make the choice that addresses my need to create work, that is, to cherish the soil of my country as the tender dream that lifts us to the glad day of a life of grace. It may take many forms but is a genuine product of today rather than a cosmetic quaintness and anachronism. It might be helpful then to consider my use of term Contemporary Folk Art more loosely as an art movement like for example The Fauves were.

In short, I hope to be able to offer, in my small way and in all manifestations of my work, a door through which the people of my own home culture might walk. Our myths are not yet complete as we are barely conscious of them. It is still a time for artists to dream and give life a shape: perhaps we Australian's, still young within the consciousness of Western tradition, act as a reminder for a generation of artists that Creation is still possible - aren't we a nation of rule breakers?

Image: Glad Day (or "The Dance of Albion"), William Blake, 1795, 10 1/4" x 8", British Museum, London.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Australian Spirit

Australian folk art has not had much attention payed to it probably because our history has been so short, the need to focus on the professional arts has been paramount to establish some sort of fine art culture in the far flung colony. There is in Australia an unfortunate and persistent myth that only elitists like art, and that to enjoy and participate in it is to be some how un-Australian?! I find this to be one of the saddest aspects of our culture as it is simply not true.

The painting above is a beautiful and lovingly Australian painting by the folk art painter, Irvine Homer, called The Birthday Party (1970, 55cm x 61 cm, oil on board). The father comes home, in through the old gate to be surprised by a big family party with games in the yard and dancing on the veranda decorated with balloons. While we only see the back of his hat his all-embracing arms express gladness and love. He seems to be embracing the whole landscape before him. I feel it expresses Irvine's love for the country he traveled over during his very difficult but rich life. After having been a drover, a shearer, a hole digger, a swagman during the Great Depression, worked on the railways, worked a little bush sawmill, been in the rodeo....etc he took to painting when illness struck him and he was no longer able to stand at the age of 35.

This is his description of his painting Summer by the Hawkesbury, "I used a magnifying glass when I painted the little fences around every house. The poultry farm, the oyster leases, all had something to do with me. Sometimes I'd get a job cracking and bagging oysters. In summer there was always a bushfire burning somewhere in the distance, so I put that in too. There's a petrol station with a shop in one corner, where I always bought my tobacco. I thought of how I'd put them together and make them into a real place. Not a real place. In my memory it's a real place, the mighty Hawkesbury (River) in all its glory. Brooklyn. And the poultry farm. I swiped one of his chooks (chickens)."

That doesn't sound un-Australian to me! :) He loved painting and he loved to study the works of other Australian painters too. His poetic nature seems very Australian to me, so I hope that Australians will joyfully embrace the lyrical nature that runs through our blood, and openly embrace the arts as that storehouse of the generational spirit of our nation.

I came across Irvine Homer and many other wonderful Australian folk art painters in a book I found from the last Life-Line Bookfair, called Australian Primitive Painters (Geoffrey Lehman, University of Queensland Press, 1977). I've had the painting above open in my studio for some months now, and I've been waiting for just the right time to share it with you.

On a recent visit to shibori artist Margaret Barnett's house I was struck by a piece of shibori she had made ready for future textile work (see the fabric above). It reminded me vividly of The Birthday Party in its character. Margaret explained to me how she had used rusted railway spikes she had collected from her travels to the Outback to dye with, leaving rich rust foxing over the antique handkerchief linen that had also been dyed with indigo. My mind was already dreaming away as I clutched the delicate cloth. She saw how overwhelmed I was with it and she generously gave me the only piece she had! I told her of the painting I was thinking of and how it was speaking to me to make some sort of doll, connected with the painting and this cloth....I just didn't know what it would be.

Looking around at all the treasures she had collected from amazing trips around the world, I saw a doll from Peru that had been roughly made with scraps of fabric over a base of bound grass. It must have struck me as when I went home, with a huge bag of textile goodies from Margaret, I made up a doll using mainly materials that Margaret had given me. Blending the primitive style of the Peruvian doll with the image of The Birthday Party had a very unusual result as you can see from the doll above. I've called it a spirit doll, and this one an Australian Spirit Doll. It will be a gift for Margaret to thank her for all the wonderful goodies she brings me...but shhh! don't tell her, it's going to be a surprise ;)

This week I want to leave you with a quote by William Blake who wrote, "Poetry Fettered, Fetters the Human Race. Nations are Destoy'd or Florish in proportion as Their Poetry, Painting and Music are Destoy'd or Florish! The Primeval State of Man was Wisdom, Art, and Science." Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, 1804.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FlockA2s - birds of a feather

In my last post you had a little sneak peak at my new Flying Star Toy - FlockA2s. I though I had better tell you something about them now that the secret is out.

FlockA2s are a toy based on the famous Australian bird, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Around us here in Sandgate we have a large local flock of a smaller variety of cockatoo, the Little Corella. Twice a day they fly over our house making a big racket with their noisy screeching, but I don't mind as these are Australian sounds and I love them. It was while listening to an afternoon fly over when I suddenly conceived of the design for this toy, I went straight into the studio and started working on the prototype.

The body is made of a beautiful white cotton/linen, while its crest has a selection of five delicious colours made from some very select cotton and silk fabric. The blue rim around the eyes is a hand-dyed wool felt that my mother makes and sells, and the beak is also a wool blended felt. They are fully lined and they are weighted to stand independently. The wing detail is stitched all the way around the back of the body with four different coloured "Flower" threads to get just the right subtle combination and texture.

I've called them FlockA2s because corellas are always in big flocks and because parrots like cockatoos and galahs mate for life and always travel with their partner. I fondly remember how social and kind they are to other cockatoos, as my neighbour used to have one caged on their back veranda, every afternoon a group of wild cockatoo would come to visit their friend in the cage. They would whoop around, call out and put their beaks together and "talk" happily for ages before the sunset. I like to think that my FlockA2s are that way too.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Coastal Birds Under Glass

Ever since Lilli&Tom miniature had their year long tour of the Brisbane City Council libraries in 2006, I've had a great relationship with Sue the Sandgate librarian. Earlier this year we talked about another little project and I mentioned the Coastal Birds series I designed based on the collaboration with Brisbane artist/illustrator Rachel Arthur. Sue thought they would be a nifty display for the library too and booked me in for a display in April.

I installed them on Tuesday morning at the hideous hour of 8:30am. Anyone who knows me understands that I currently get up at around 10am and go to bed around 2am - these blogs don't write themselves you know ;). Sue pointed out that April also coincides with the annual Easter Bluewater festival here in Sandgate that kicks off this Good Friday with the start of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race, it brings in heaps of spectators to Sandgate and Shorncliffe to watch the starting line in Moreton Bay. So it seems that it will be a good theme for the season after all.

Some of my beloved regular readers might notice a new toy that I have yet to show's a sneak peak at a new Flying Star Toy called Flocka2s. They aren't technically coastal birds and don't belong to that series (which might be a bit misleading), but they are native to the area and neatly filled the space I'm calling the "sky" in this display. Stay tuned for more on Sandgate Flocka2s soon!

Coastal Birds Series of artist made designer toys can be seen at Sandgate BCCL from now until the end of April.

And wishing a Happy Easter/Chocolate Egg season to all :D